FOIA Appeal Brief Against the City of Dearborn

It's a dirty little secret, but I have a strong background in civil litigation and still take the occasional case.  The other lawyers I work with tend to handle the family law cases, divorces, personal injury, etc., but I used to handle the big breach of contract claims involving subcontractors to the automotive industry where hundreds of pages of interrogatories and endless days of depositions are commonplace.  
One area where I have carved out a niche, maintaining my ties to civil litigation, is FOIA litigation.  FOIA stands for "Freedom of Information Act," and it essentially states that members of the public are allowed to inspect public records upon request. Despite the simplicity of the law, local governments frequently try to contest the public's right to inspect records.  I love suing local municipal governments when these local governments fail to grant access to public documents.  I have handled so many of these cases that local attorneys have begun hiring me.  This jumped up a notch a while back after an attorney-friend was having trouble getting information regarding a CSC case.  I made a telephone call, threatened to sue the police, and they agreed to turn over the materials by the end of the day.  My attorney-friend gave me glowing praise, and I was suddenly getting a lot of calls from folks having trouble with FOIA matters.
In a totally different case, my good friend Jim Amberg, an attorney out of Oakland County, was handling a case out of Dearborn.  Apparently, a young clean-cut college kid of Middle-Eastern decent was charged with resisting and obstructing Dearborn Police Officers at a local Tim Horton's restaurant.  Being a good defense lawyer, Jim interviewed everyone and discovered that the entire episode was videotaped by the restaurant.  The only problem was that Tim Horton's refused to hand over the video to Jim.  They had, however, turned over the video to the City of Dearborn pursuant to a subpoena, so this made the video fair game under FOIA.
The City of Dearborn and their police department claimed in their FOIA response that they never obtained a copy of the video from Tim Horton's restaurant.  Jim quickly discovered that this was a lie, since the videos were sitting in the prosecutor's file when he appeared for a pretrial.  
Jim hired me to sue them, and sue them we did.  After a few weeks of tense litigation, we were able to get copies of the videos.  The videos revealed that his client was actually innocent and the victim of rough police handling.  
The City of Dearborn moved for summary disposition after they turned over the videos.  They claimed that the videos were not "public records" amongst a litany of other arguments, e.g. the police department could not be sued, the case was moot because they turned over the materials after they got caught lying, etc.  The arguments were misplaced at best and actually misstated the law in some instances.
Unfortunately, Jim and I had pulled Judge Dan Ryan, who had recently moved from the criminal docket in Frank Murphy Hall of Justice over to the civil docket in the CAYMC.  With little civil experience, we were confident in the law but less confident as to how the judge would handle the case.   Well, we got our answer.  Judge Ryan granted the City's absurd motion.  We filed a massive brief for reconsideration, but it appears that the judge simply ignored it.  
With no other option and a small fortune in attorney fees on the table, we filed our appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals.  Here is my final brief that I filed: Brief on Appeal.pdf  The brief is uploaded with the ability to print and copy contents turned off because of the LEXIS cases attached to it, but you can freely read the brief and distribute you as you deem fit.  Please don't make any changes to the brief, and if you share it, please give me credit.
William Maze


Although we lost in the Court of Appeals, I pressed on with an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court.  In a unanimous decision, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed.  In one of the landmark FOIA decisions of the decade, the City of Dearborn was held to have violated the FOIA.
Here is the opinion: